Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods


In the wake of a devastating flood that claimed the lives of thousands of residents and obliterated entire neighbourhoods, the eastern Libyan city of Derna is now witnessing fervent protests.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets, expressing their anger towards the authorities and demanding accountability for the tragic events that unfolded.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
People who survived the deadly storm that hit Libya protest outside the Al Sahaba Mosque against the government, in Derna. The sign reads: “The sad city of Derna demands its rights”. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
Protesters gathered outside the iconic Al Sahaba Mosque in Derna on Monday, directing their frustrations towards various officials, including Aguila Saleh, the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament. Some even went so far as to sit on the mosque’s roof, making a powerful statement against the backdrop of its golden dome – a cherished symbol of the city.

The chants of the demonstrators echoed through the air as they proclaimed, “Aguila, we don’t want you! All Libyans are brothers!” Their demands transcended personal grievances, highlighting the urgent need for national unity in a country that has been torn apart by over a decade of conflict and chaos.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
Protesters took aim at officials, including the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, during the demonstration outside the Al Sahaba Mosque. [Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]
As night fell, the protestors’ anger reached a boiling point, leading them to set fire to the house of Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi, who was serving as the mayor of Derna at the time of the disaster. This act of retribution showcased the extent of frustration and despair felt by the community.

In response to the mounting pressure, Hichem Abu Chkiouat, a minister in the eastern Libyan government, announced that Ghaithi has been suspended from his position. While this move indicates a certain level of accountability, it remains to be seen whether it will assuage the public’s anger and restore a sense of justice.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
The flood swept through Derna when two dams in the hills outside the city failed during a powerful storm, unleashing a devastating torrent. [Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]
The backdrop of these protests is a deeply divided Libya, with two rival administrations vying for power. The internationally-recognised government, based in the capital city of Tripoli, contends with another self-proclaimed government situated in Benghazi. This political fragmentation, coupled with the increasing influence of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, has only exacerbated the sense of uncertainty and desperation felt by the Libyan people.

Monday’s protest serves as a significant demonstration following the devastating flood that hit Derna. The collapse of two dams during a powerful storm resulted in a catastrophic torrent, causing widespread destruction. As part of the protest, Said Mansour, a student participant, calls for an urgent investigation into the dam collapse and expresses grief over the loss of countless lives.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
People comfort their friend who lost his family members, as they protest outside the Al Sahaba Mosque. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
Taha Miftah, 39, believes that the government’s mismanagement of the crisis is to blame and emphasises the need for international intervention in both the inquiry into the disaster and its subsequent reconstruction.

The exact death toll remains unknown as thousands of individuals are still missing. Conflicting casualty counts have been reported by officials, with the World Health Organization confirming 3,922 deaths.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
Monday’s protest marks the first large demonstration since the flood. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
While Saleh attempts to shift responsibility away from authorities by labelling the flood as an “unprecedented natural disaster,” critics highlight pre-existing warnings regarding Derna’s susceptibility to flooding and the crucial maintenance required for safeguarding its dams found in academic research conducted by hydrologists last year.

The flooding in Derna serves as a stark reminder of the broader challenges faced by Libya. Decades of conflict, political instability, and a lack of proper infrastructure have left the country vulnerable to natural disasters and ill-equipped to mitigate their devastating effects.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
The full scale of the death toll from the floods in Derna has yet to emerge, with thousands of people still missing. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
As protesters continue to voice their grievances, it is vital for the authorities and international community to listen attentively and take meaningful action. Prompt and targeted assistance is needed to help rebuild shattered lives and restore hope to a city that has been ravaged by tragedy.

Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
A week after a tsunami-sized flash flood devastated Derna, international aid efforts gathered pace as search-and-rescue work continued. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]
Libyan Survivors: Protests erupt in Derna after devastating floods
An estimated 30,000 residents are now homeless in Derna, and badly need clean water, food, shelter and basic supplies amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition, United Nations agencies have warned. [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Hakim Abdul
Hakim Abdul is a highly accomplished journalist who specializes in reporting on North African affairs with a deep understanding and passion for the region, Abdul has established himself as the go-to correspondent for all matters related to politics, governance, and current affairs in North Africa. Renowned for his insightful analysis and comprehensive coverage, Abdul diligently investigates and reports on the complex and ever-evolving political landscape of the region.


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